The World of Patti Smith: Dream of Life

Dream of Life: An Intimate Portrait of Patti Smith

A Meditation on Aging and Mortality

Patti Smith: Dream of Life is a film that’s been 12 years in the making, a work that reveals an intimate, impressionistic portrait of a woman who is still blazing her own trail through late middle age, a woman who has seen and suffered great loss and who is perhaps the only major surviving connection from New York City’s Beat generation, to the 1970s Manhattan art scene, to the birth of punk, to the present.  For the most part, the film has been described as a paean to life, resoundingly joyous and elegiac, warm and vibrantly present, a collage of moods and moments from one immensely talented woman’s richly lived time on earth. Patti Smith arrived in the big city 40 years ago and made her first residence in a room at The Chelsea Hotel, which in those days was also home to William S. Burroughs, Jefferson Airplane, Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin, Sam Shepard, Arthur Miller, Robert Mapplethorpe and some of the Warhol crowd. Patti soon became the muse, friend and partner of Robert Mapplethorpe, became a poet, then a performance poet, then an underground rock musician and then a rock star.  She left the stage and the city to settle down in Michigan as a wife and mother. Then, following the 1994 death of her husband, the musician Fred “Sonic” Smith, she returned to New York City, to music, to poetry and to political activism.

Dream of Life is a beautiful and occasionally haunting artistic creation, a meditation on aging and mortality, an intimate study of an unusual kind of fame and the portrait of a genuinely remarkable person. The film was received with great acclaim at The Sundance Film Festival last year, as well as in Berlin and all over the film-festival world.

The videos presented below include a video comprised of  number of vignettes from the longer documentary, the official trailer of Patti Smith: Dream of Life, a short documentary about Patti smith and Robert Maplethorpe, and a video about the Chelsea Hotel.  This piece also presents two photo-galleries.

Patti Smith: Dream of Life

Shot over 11 years by renowned fashion photographer Steven Sebring, Patti Smith: Dream of Life is an intimate portrait of the legendary rocker, poet and artist.  Following Smith’s personal reflections over a decade, the film explores her many art forms and the friends and poets who inspired her, including: William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Robert Mapplethorpe and Michael Stipe.  She emerges as a crucial, contemporary link between the Beats, Punks and today’s music.

Patti Smith: Dream of Life (PBS/POV Trailer)

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe: A Documentary

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe is a documentary short that provides rare glimpse of Patti Smith’s remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe during the epochal days of New York City and The Chelsea Hotel during the late nineteen-sixties and seventies.

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe: A Documentary

Slide Show: Dream of Life

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

Biographic Notes: A Portrait of One Woman’s Rich Life

Patti Smith: The Early Years

Patti Smith was born in Chicago in 1948 and grew up in Woodbury, New Jersey. After graduating from high school, Patti did a brief stint as a factory worker, which convinced her to move to New York City to pursue a life in the arts.  Soon after her arrival, she connected with the young photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, whom she met while working at a book store. This was a close friendship that she maintained until his death in 1989. In 1969 she went to Paris with her sister and started doing performance art.   When Smith returned to New York City, she lived in The Chelsea Hotel with Mapplethorpe, and they began frequenting the then fashionable Max’s Kansas City and CBGB nightclubs.

She helped put New York’s punk-rock landmark CBGB on the map, at a time when New York’s East Village was becoming a burgeoning center of experimental artistic creativity. She organized The Patti Smith Group and in 1975 released her debut album, Horses, to critical acclaim. Produced by John Cale, the album was described as an original mixture of exhortatory rock & roll, Smith’s poetry, vocal mannerisms inspired by Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison, and the band’s energetically rudimentary playing. In 1976, Aerosmith producer Jack Douglas oversaw the Patti Smith Group’s second album, Radio Ethiopia, and the result was a more bombastic guitar-heavy record, tempered by the title cut, the height of Smith’s improvised free rock.  After an almost nine-year hiatus, Smith returned to recording with the 1988 album Dream of Life, the work of a more mellow, but still rebellious songwriter. Smith’s comeback album was co-produced by her husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith, with songs that included her call-to-arms, People Have the Power.

Grief and Mourning

In 1994, her husband died of a heart attack at the age of 45. Just a month later, her younger brother (and former road manager) Todd, also died of a heart attack. Her longtime friend and companion Robert Mapplethorpe had already died of AIDS in 1989. Determined to carry on as a tribute to the encouragement that her husband and brother had shown her before their passings, Smith performed a string of opening dates with Bob Dylan in late 1995 and issued the intensely personal Gone Again in 1996.  The album offered a potent mix of songs about mourning and rebirth, reflecting Smith’s belief that the beauty of life survives death.

But another eight years would pass by before her second artistic comeback, marked by a trio of acclaimed albums released in quick succession, which found her fighting her way out of a period of intense personal grief stemming from the loss of several of the most important people in her life. The documentary Patti Smith: Dream of Life premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and is currently opening in theaters nationwide and in Europe.

Life in The Chelsea Hotel: A Documentary

People are always asking what it’s like to live in The Chelsea Hotel.  Well, it’s not always easy. There are times when you can end up feeling felt like a fly caught in a spider’s web, at risk of being eaten alive if you make the wrong move.

Life in The Chelsea Hotel: A Documentary

Audio: Bob Dylan/Farewell

Slide Show: New York City’s Elegant Dowager/The Chelsea Hotel

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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On the Street: The Annals of Outrageous Self-Invention, 1980-1990

Madonna, St. Mark’s Place, 1983; Lesbian couple, 8th Street, 1981

Alan and Charles Rosenberg, Central Park, 1985; Fingernail Extensions, 23rd Street and 8th Avenue, 1988

Pia Guccione, 8th Street and University Place, 1988; Phoebe Lègére Accordion, 10th Street and Avenue B, 1987

Tongues Down, Rafael Araujo, 7th Street and 2nd Avenue, c. 1987-88; Jenny Gift-Wrapped, 59th Street, 1982

Susanne Bartsch, Houston Street and West Broadway, 1987; Miranda Pennell, Columbus Avenue, 1984

Jan Long, Cooper Union Square, 1982; Julio Q, Broome Street, 1985

On the Street: The Annals of Outrageous Self-Invention, 1980-1990

Photography by: Amy Arbus

On the Street is a collection of photographs by Amy Arbus, which were selected from Arbus’s photo-column that ran in The Village Voice between 1980 and 1990, a page that documented New York City’s downtown area’s most vibrant, creative dressers and personalities (many of the photographs were also published in a book).  Amy Arbus has been photographing professionally for more than 25 years.  She has been a contributing photographer to the New York Magazine theater section, and her photographs have appeared in over one hundred periodicals, including The New Yorker, Aperture, People Magazine, ESPN, and The New York Times Magazine.  She is the daughter of the late photographer Diane Arbus.

Now that Manhattan is only habitable for the rich, many New Yorkers love to reminiscently look back to the mad and crazy ‘80s, when the Bowery could be quite dangerous and apartments were still affordable.  Nostalgia presently stalks the five boroughs, whether for acid-washed rap-fashion, Mudd Club art parties or coke in sleazy bars.  But back in the original 1980s-1990s, Amy Arbus found the subjects for her extremely unique photographs mostly by just wandering around the Village, looking for people who were wearing visually creative and unusual outfits, a lot of polka dots, or stripes, or everyone wearing hats in the summertime.  At the time, there was nothing else like it.  Now there are a lot of similar things, but back at the original time there hadn’t been any kind of record of the East Village scene when it was comprised of this particularly promising, hopeful group of talented, interesting people.

Describing her pictures from this 1980s-1990s collection, Arbus stated, “In terms of the clothes, I think they were fantastic and funny and outrageous and silly….There was no kind of judgment going on at the time.  Everyone wanted to be noticed, no matter what it was for.  That’s completely gone.  Being noticed is irrelevant now.  You have to make such waves to be a success at things now that dressing differently may make an impression, but it’s not going to get you a career.”

Included here are a number of Arbus’s vintage photographs, a video from  her documentary film On the Street, a full-screen high-resolution slide show and an additional audio-slide show of Arbus’s photography.

The Clash, Broadway, 1981

Slide Show: On the Street/ The Annals of Outrageous Self-Invention, 1980-1990

(Please Click Image to View Full-View High-Res. Slide Show)

Amy Arbus: A Documentary of On the Street, 1980-1990


Audio Slide Show: Amy Arbus’s On the Street/ Annals of Self-Invention

(Please Click on Image to View Audio Slide Show)

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Annie Leibovitz: The Legacy of a Photographer’s Life and Times

Annie Leibovitz: The Legacy of a Photographer’s Life and Times

Annie Leibovitz’s Life Has Taken a Sad and Dark Turn

Annie Leibovitz was clearly very unhappy about what a lifetime-achievement award said about her, that the best days of her 40-year career were behind her. Accepting the honor from the International Center of Photography last May, the 59-year-old Leibovitz said, “Photography is not something you retire from.” Photographers, she said, “live to a very old age” and “work until the end.” Then her tone turned rueful. “Seriously, though, this really is a big deal,” she said, hoisting her Infinity Award statuette, her voice quavering to the point where it seemed she might cry. “It means so much to me, you know, especially right now. It’s, it’s a very sweet award to get right now. I’m having some tough times right now, so.…

The 700 friends and colleagues who had come to share the evening with her knew about the “tough times.” She recently had been sued for more than $700,000 in unpaid bills, and in February the New York Times ran a front-page story reporting that in order to secure a loan, Leibovitz had essentially pawned the copyrights to her entire catalogue of photographs. Even those who had known she was in trouble were shocked to learn about the extent of it. Leibovitz was responsible for some of the world’s most iconic magazine covers: a naked John Lennon with Yoko Ono for Rolling Stone, Demi Moore, naked and pregnant, for Vanity Fair. She had moved from celebrity portraiture to fashion photography to edgier, more artistic pictures; some considered her the heir to Richard Avedon or Helmut Newton.

Leibovitz’s life has now taken a decidedly dark turn. Her reference to “tough times” was significantly understated. In the past five years, Susan Sontag and both of Leibovitz’s parents have died. Her debts now total a staggering $24 million, consolidated with one lender with whom she is engaged in a lawsuit and due on Tuesday, September 8th. If she can’t meet that deadline, she may lose her homes and the rights to her lifetime body of photographic work. Friends say that Leibovitz has begun to think of herself less as a celebrity artist leading a charmed life and more as a single mother of three, who is fighting to keep a roof over her head and food on her family’s table. It isn’t surprising, then, that she bristled at the lifetime-achievement award. The fear of no longer working is terrifying to her. She has to work.

Read more about how this has happened to Annie Leibovitz in New York Magazine here.

Biographic Notes: The Life and Times of Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibowitz was born in Westbury, Connecticut, one of the six children born to Sam, an Air Force lieutenant, and Marilyn Leibovitz, a modern dance instructor. In 1967, Leibovitz enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she developed a love for photography. After living briefly on an Israeli kibbutz, in 1970 Leibovitz returned to the United States and applied for a job with the start-up rock music magazine The Rolling Stone. Impressed with Leibovitz’s portfolio, Editor Jann Wenner offered her a job as a staff photographer. Within two years, the 23-year-old Leibovitz was promoted to Chief Photographer, a position that she held for the next 10 years. Her work with the magazine gave her the opportunity to accompany the Rolling Stones band on their 1975 international tour. While with The Rolling Stone, Leibovitz developed her trademark technique, which involved the use of bold primary colors and surprising poses. Wenner has credited her with making many of The Rolling Stone’s covers collector’s items, most notably an issue that featured a nude John Lennon curled around his fully clothed wife, Yoko Ono. Taken on December 8, 1980, Leibovitz’s photo of the former Beatle was shot just hours before his death.

In 1983, Leibovitz left The Rolling Stone and began working for the entertainment magazine Vanity Fair. With a wider array of subjects, Leibovitz’s photographs for Vanity Fair ranged from presidents to literary icons to teen idols. A number of Vanity Fair’s covers have featured Leibovitz’s stunning and often controversial portraits of celebrities. Demi Moore (very pregnant and very nude), Whoopi Goldberg (half-submerged in a bathtub of milk) and her widely controversial photographs of Miley Cyrus are among the most remembered actresses to grace the cover in recent years. Known for her ability to make her subjects become physically involved in her work, one of Leibovitz’s most famous portraits is of the late artist Keith Haring, who painted himself like one of his canvases for the photo.

In 1991, Leibovitz’s collection of over 200 color and black-and-white photographs was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Later that year, a book was published to accompany the show, entitled Photographs: Annie Leibovitz 1970-1990. In 1996, Leibovitz was chosen to be the official photographer for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. A compilation of her black-and-white portraits of American athletes, including Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson, was published in the book Olympic Portraits (1991). Widely considered one of America’s best portrait photographers, Leibovitz also published the book Women (1999), which was accompanied by an essay that was written by her lover, the acclaimed novelist Susan Sontag. With its title subject matter, Leibovitz presented an array of female images from Supreme Court Justices to Las Vegas showgirls, to coal miners and farmers. Currently, many of her original prints are housed in various galleries throughout the United States.

Annie Leibovitz: A Video Photo-Gallery

Music: Bob Dylan/Restless Farewell

Annie Leibovitz: A Photographic Retrospective

A Multimedia Presentation: Leibovitz Talks About Her American Music Photographs

Annie Leibovitz Through Her Own Lens: An Interview

Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens

Annie Leibovitz: Images of Love and Loss

What may be the most controversial aspect of Leibovitz’s book, A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005, is the series of intimate pictures from her relationship with Susan Sontag, and particularly the painful images of the writer when she was seriously ill with cancer. The two first met in the late ’80s, when Leibovitz photographed her for a book jacket. They never lived together, although they each had an apartment within view of the other’s. But their many trips to Paris, Venice, Capri, the Nile, the ruins of Petra in Jordan, are recorded here. Sontag, the author of the award-winning book of criticism “On Photography,” wasn’t easy on Leibovitz. As Leibovitz described it, “She thought I was good—and that I could be better. And I wanted to be a better photographer. She sort of raised the bar and made me feel I needed to take control.” Because of Sontag, Leibowitz went to Sarajevo during the Bosnian war, where she shot such powerful pictures as the one of a child’s bike lying in a road smeared with blood. But Sontag also loved pop culture. When Tina Brown, then Editor of Vanity Fair, seemed to hesitate about printing the pregnant Demi Moore pictures, Sontag called her up to say how great they were. “Susan was so entrenched in life, I couldn’t keep up with her,” said Leibovitz. “She was just bigger than everything.”

Sitting in her Greenwich Village office, wearing jeans and sneakers, Leibovitz explained how Sontag’s death in December 2004, followed only weeks later by the death of Leibovitz’s father, propelled her to make this book. “It totally came out of a moment,” she said. “I had already done some looking at photographs of Susan—that was very hard—for a little memorial book. I had never taken the time to see what I had, really.” She would weep and pin the pictures up on the long walls of an old barn at her country place in upstate New York. “And then, I got very excited, trying to look from 1990 to 2005, as if Susan was standing behind me.” Leibovitz teared up and reached for a box of tissues.

She struggled over whether to publish the few photos from Sontag’s last weeks of life. “They are very tough pictures,” she said. “People have said it’s important to publish them because so much is masked from us about what the end really is.” Leibovitz started to choke up again. “I think Susan would really be proud of those pictures—but she’s dead. Now if she were alive, she would not want them published. It’s really a difference. It’s really strange.” Later, collecting her thoughts, she said, “I’ve been through everything mentally and emotionally, and I’m very comfortable with them. This book is me.”

Most powerful may be the image of Sontag in death, a photograph that evokes a 19th-century memento mori. In counterpoint are the pictures of Leibovitz’s own children. She gave birth as a single mother to her daughter Sarah just after 9/11. Then, a few months after Sontag and Leibovitz’s father died, her twin girls were born, via a surrogate mother. She named one Susan and the other Samuelle, after her dad. “I saw my life with Susan, my life with my family, I saw the birth of my children,” she recalled about looking at all the pictures together. “I was mesmerized by the personal stuff. I just loved it.”

Leibovitz’s book also provides a comprehensive view of the public side of a photographer of legendary ambition and tenacity. Her well-known subjects have described her as a perfectionist who will do almost anything to get the picture she wants. “She has this kind of burning focus,” says Roseanne Cash, who’s been photographed by Leibovitz several time, one time on a beach in Maine in December when it was 3 degrees below zero. “She arrives at a shoot with all these people,” says Mikhail Baryshnikov. “It’s very intense—absolutely intense!” If time allowed, Leibovitz would spend two or three days around a portrait subject first, just getting ideas. Despite the meticulous planning, the perfect image can come out of the blue. For example, Leibovitz’s picture of Jack Nicholson. Whenever she was busy setting up a shot inside his Mulholland Drive house, he’d disappear out back to drive golf balls, and that became the photograph. And believe it or not, she didn’t intend to shoot Bill Gates at his computer, but that’s where she found him when he wandered away from her lights.

It may be her perfectionism that makes Leibovitz question her own work. “I’m not a great studio portraitist,” she says in the book’s introduction. That accolade she reserves for such photographers as Richard Avedon. “His work is a great reminder about trying to be simple and strong,” she says. Avedon knew how to talk to his subjects and “get them animated, or thinking about anything but having their picture taken.”

Leibovitz, on the other hand, likes to look rather than converse. “I’m still learning how to make the portrait more alive,” she says. Early in her career, when she started working for Rolling Stone back when it was based in San Francisco, she might spend days or weeks on the road with a band, taking pictures behind the scenes; but the more formal shots for the magazine’s cover were different. “It wasn’t like life as it was happening—my portraits started to feel like after the decisive moment,” she says, laughing. “I made myself feel a little better by saying it’s the studied moment.” As her magazine work has become more elaborate, Leibovitz seems to long for the feeling of reportage. “It would be nice once in a while to do some Life Magazine real-world imagery instead of making it up all the time,” she says. She cited a favorite shoot with Anderson Cooper in New Orleans after Katrina. “I do work for one of the largest magazine conglomerates in the world [Condé Nast, the publisher of Vanity Fair and Vogue], and they have an agenda for me,” she notes. “I’m trying to work within that and still try to do good work.” In the end, what matters to her most is not any individual picture. “I’ve always thought the strength of my work has been in the body of the work.”

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Articles of Faith: The Sacred Personalities of Chicago’s African-American Storefront Churches

Articles of Faith: The Sacred Personalities of Chicago’s African-American Storefront Churches

Photography by:  Dave Jordano

The Storefront Churches of Chicago is an exquisite photographic documentary by photographer Dave Jordano, which is contained in his recently published book, Articles of Faith.  His work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Northwestern University, among others.  Jordano’s powerful and reverent images in this work capture the small details that make the church spaces unique, familiar and alive; Jordano shows us it’s not only how, but where congregations pray that defines their faith.  Describing this work, Jordano observes that, “There is a long history of small storefront churches in urban areas throughout America.  The great migration of African-Americans to the north during the last century has definitely contributed to this.  Even after Blacks moved north, they still encountered much racial tension and segregation, creating isolation and economic hardship within their communities.  Because of this, many groups couldn’t afford to build a large church, so the idea of reusing small empty storefronts in depressed areas where rents were low became the catalyst for their reuse.  It’s a cultural phenomenon that still resonates today and has become a vital component within the cultural fabric of poor Black urban communities.”

Jordano photographed the churches mostly empty in order to capture interior images that revealed the unique personality of each sacred space.  In this way, the manner in which each pastor adorns and decorates a space is a reflection of their religious ideology, their concept of what is appealing and attractive to others, and of how that space can make others feel comfortable and leave them with feelings of importance and hope.  Perhaps more significantly, he documented these spaces in order to illuminate their positive influences as pillars of community stability and support within poor Black neighborhoods, especially where crime, prostitution and drugs are often right outside the front door.

When these elegantly refined photographs of the sacred rooms are viewed as “portraits,” they resonate with their creators’ personalities.  Seemingly insignificant items such as the ripped and folded-up paper song sheet that a young girl is holding so delicately between her fingers become important documents that signify identity. The hand-written titles are someone’s favorite songs to sing.  It may be only a piece of paper, but its history is profound.  Many of these little churches displayed portraits of the churches’ founders, to pay tribute or memorialize them.  Some of them were photographs, some were paintings on the walls; all of them were signs of respect and testaments to the importance of the here and now, tributes to the day-to-day guiding moral principles of the leader of the church.

Music: Mahalia Jackson/Amazing Grace

Slide Show: Articles of Faith/The Sacred Personalities of Chicago’s African-American Storefront Churches

(Click Image to View Slide Show)

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Fragments: Broken Houses Filled with Broken Hearts

Fragments: Broken Houses Filled with Broken Hearts

Photography by:  Lawrence Ripsher

Everything’s Broken

Broken bottles, broken plates,
Broken switches, broken gates,
Broken dishes, broken parts,
Streets are filled with broken hearts.
Broken words never meant to be spoken,
Everything is broken.

-B. Dylan

Fragments is a selection of photographs by Lawrence Ripsher, who describes his work as a form of narrative/storytelling photography, capturing images that go beyond pure aesthetics.  The intent of Fragments is to present a series of images that evoke emotions in the viewer, encouraging them to ask questions of what are, in some cases, fairly dramatic scenes.  While the images are usually described as scenes conveying depression, there remains for the viewer an element of ambiguity that Lawrence says was one of the goals of the project, his attempt at providing questions but not necessarily the entire answer.

Music: Bob Dylan/Not Dark Yet

Slide Show: Fragments/Broken Houses Filled with Broken Hearts

(Click Image for Slide Show)

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Photo of the Day: The Sexy Black Motorcycle Madonnas

Photo of the Day: The Sexy Black Motorcycle Madonnas

Photography by:  Joseph O. Holmes, NYC

Bob Dylan: Gates of Eden

The motorcycle black madonna
Two-wheeled gypsy queen
And her silver-studded phantom…

Music: Bob Dylan/Gates of Eden

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Sita Sings the Blues: An Inspiration to Warm the Heart

Sita Sings the Blues: An Inspiration to Warm the Heart

Sita Sings the Blues is an astonishingly original 2008 animated feature film written, directed, produced and animated entirely by the American artist Nina Paley, primarily using 2-D computer graphics. Sita Sings the Blues was awarded the Cristal Grand Prix for Best Feature at the 2008 Annecy International Animated Film Festival and the Crystal Bear-Special Mention in the category of Best Feature Film at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival. Paley is also the producer of the highly acclaimed animated short films Fetch! (2001) and The Stork (2002), both of which I have posted earlier.

In his rave review of Sita Sings the Blues, Robert Ebert wrote:

To get any film made is a miracle. To conceive of a film like this is a greater miracle. How did Paley’s mind work? She begins with the story of Ramayana [an ancient Sanskrit epic, depicting the righteous duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king], which is known to every school child in India but not to me. It tells the story of a brave, noble woman who was made to suffer because of the perfidy of a spineless husband and his mother. This is a story known to every school child in America. They learn it at their mother’s knee. Paley depicts the story with exuberant drawings in bright colors. It is about a prince named Rama who treated Sita shamefully, although she loved him and was faithful to him.”

But there is another story told within the movie, a contemporary tale that runs parallel to the ancient epic of Ramayana. In the film, we are introduced to an American couple living in San Francisco, young and in love, named Dave and Nina, and their cat, named Lexi. They are deeply in love, but Dave flies to India in order to take a “temporary” job. Nina longs to be with him and finally flies to join him in India. However, while in India, he is abrupt and cold to her, and when she returns home to America she receives a cruel message: “Don’t come back. Love, Dave.” Nina despairs and moves to a decrepit apartment in Brooklyn. Cockroaches crawl all around her apartment, but she’s so stricken with grief that she hardly notices them. One day in her deepest gloom she picks up the book Ramayana and starts to read. Inspiration begins to warm the cold embers of her heart. In her autobiography, Paley reveals that her own then-husband “terminated” their marriage while he was still in India. Paley’s ex-husband has inspired a great cultural contribution.

Now, without broader distribution of the outstanding reviews for Paley’s film, it doesn’t initially come off as having the ring of box office gold: An animated version of the epic Indian tale of Ramayana set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. Once people read that, they’re like: “Uh, huh.” And if you were to read that description in a mailer sent to you by your local art house, would you drop everything and race through driving rain see it? “Uh, uh.”

But Paley was faced with an even greater obstacle when she tried to get “Sita Sings the Blues” licensed. Partly because of the Annett Hanshaw musical soundtrack, licensors came back with the “bargain” estimate of about $220,000. It was simply not possible for her to acquire that kind of money, so instead Paley gave Sita Sings the Blues to her audiences. Paley stated, “Like all culture, it belongs to you already, but I am making it explicit with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. Please distribute, copy, share, archive, and show ‘Sita Sings the Blues.’”

The full version of Sita Sings the Blues is presented below in HD video. The film is comprised of 10 parts; at the end of each part, please click on the arrow at the bottom-right of the video to proceed to the next section. Sita Sings the Blues is best viewed in HD and Full-Screen Mode.

The Full Movie: Sita Sings the Blues

(Click Arrow on Right Side of Video for Next Part)

Music: Annett Hanshaw Sings Mean to Me:

A Colorfully Illustrated Picture Book: The Tale of “Sita Sings the Blues”

(Click on Above Image to View the “Sita” Picture Book)

Slide Show: Sita Sings the Blues

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

The full-length version of Sita Sings the Blues can also be viewed (streaming and download H.264 .mp4 720p 3Mbps) at WNET / thirteen.org

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